I've been running a lot of red lights lately. Not in the way that causes you to get pulled over, or have your license plate captured by a ticket camera, but in the way that a yellow changes to red just as you pull through and you think maybe, probably, you should have slowed to a stop.
I've never been good at judging how much time I have left to make a light. Or, for that matter, how much width I have when parking my car, or pulling alongside a pole. But it's been happening more frequently and feels indicative of struggle with a larger balancing act.
I've been struggling lately with balance. It manifests itself physically - at therapy, they ask me to stand on a rubber cushion and haul my non-injured leg as high into the air as I can. I fall every time, slumping sideways into the arms of my trainer.
Sometimes he laughs. Sometimes, I think, he's frustrated. "You have an issue with balance?" He asked me once, and I flared with anger - standing with all my weight on a leg that was shredded to pieces just a few months ago, am I supposed to be doing it perfectly?
But, so, an issue with balance? That, I have.
For a long time, I was in so much physical pain that I didn't cry. It seems counterintuitive but it's possible for pain to be so blinding, so consuming that your body simply doesn't have the energy left to produce tears.
Now, except for that one time in yoga class, I only cry in the car. And boy, do I cry in the car. I wonder if it's a learned reaction at this point - enough quiet time behind the wheel and tears slowly course down my face. It's as if I have tears stored up somewhere inside of me, but the only time I allow my mind to rest enough to let them out is when I'm driving, all distractions locked away. (Literally - I've been locking my phone in the trunk, or at least placing it in the backseat, in an effort to break my terrible habit of being unable to ignore the ding of an incoming email or text message).
Trying to balance a return to normal life and obligations and the conflicting emotions left whirling around? Balance, that I have a problem with.
I thought I would be more excited about a return to physical activity and, don't get me wrong, each small physical victory thrills me to no end. But I'd also forgotten, in my foray into healing rather than working out, just how exhausting it is to try to balance all of the competing messages about women and fitness.
It. Is. Exhausting.
There's an ideal body, but there's pushback against an ideal body. You should have a six pack, but you shouldn't be trying too hard for that six pack, because every body is beautiful! You should #eatclean and post pictures of your green smoothie but, hell, go ahead and have that ice cream because society has unreasonable expectations for your diet.
Then there's the issue of balancing your workouts. There's a lot out there, which is cool - you can mix it up, stay motivated, and challenge your body with each new sweat session. But I'm guilty of falling into an impossible trap of constantly feeling like i'm not doing enough. Sure, I took a hard cycle class in the morning. But shouldn't I go home and do some weight training? How do I fit in yoga? When I start running again, what should be my ratio of days on the trail and days inside with some weights?
Complicating the equation is the general mess of feelings I have about my body right now. I'm working, actively, on giving myself a break. But the cold, hard truth is that I'm still trying to figure out how to find my way back from being injured, not being able to exercise and the changes that come with that. I still feel a sharp pang of guilt if I eat free ice cream in the office. I'm still trying to quiet the small voice that tells me that my inability to return to two-a-day workouts is unacceptable.
And then, I feel guilty for being mad at myself for a loss of conditioning and muscle, when I've seen in sharp, exquisite detail, how much more there is to lose in this world.
Every day, I'm exhausted by the narrative : am I doing enough, am I working out enough, am I balancing my need for recovery enough, am I eating enough, am I eating the right things, am I relaxing and enjoying enough?
Balance. I don't have it. And I don't really have any answers, either, except that I'm learning that recovery is going to mean so much more than a healed bone.
Someone told me a few months ago that it was okay to let my guard down and admit that not everything is 100 percent. So maybe, for me, balance is raising my hand and admitting I'm struggling with balance. And taking a breath to cry in the car. Or slow to stop at a yellow light. Or enjoy the small victory that comes with beating out the red.